Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Coconut ash lattes are better at cleansing your wallet than your body

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Apparently this needs to be said again (and again and probably again) because people are still drinking things like the new “coconut ash latte”.

Maybe you think drinking something that’s black looks cool? Maybe you think that drinking a beverage made with charcoal is somehow healthy? Like if you drink this beverage literally made from burnt stuff you are going to clean your body from the inside out? Who needs a Brita filter when you can just ingest the carbon directly?

To essentially repeat myself; drinking something made from activated charcoal is not a good idea. In addition to being used in water filters, activated charcoal is used in hospitals to treat some types of drug overdoses. The charcoal binds the medications preventing them from being absorbed by the body. Clearly some genius (perhaps after consuming too many recreational drugs) thought, “I know. I’m going make a drink that will just suck up all of the toxins in my body so that I can continue to ingest them without consequence.” The problem with this genius revelation is that activated charcoal doesn’t care if a medication is beneficial or harmful. It’s going to attract medications that you need as well as vitamins and minerals from your diet. It’s indiscriminate between “good” and “bad” substances. One thing’s for sure, at $6.50 USD a pop, this latte will cleanse your wallet in a flash.

Another concern that I have about these beverages is that we don’t know the long-term health consequences of regularly ingesting activated charcoal. There hasn’t been any studies on the effects of these trendy beverages. Probably because it never occurred to any reasonable researcher that anyone would willingly purchase and consume drinks made out of charcoal. My guess would be that it’s not going to be good for you. In addition to to risks caused by loss of minerals and medications, you’re consuming burnt particulate. But, this is merely speculation on my part at this point as the science has yet to catch-up with the absurd trend. Until it does, I would leave the activated charcoal in your water filter and to the physicians in the ERs.

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A recommended detox for @bonappetit

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I think that Bon Appetit is trolling me now. Why else would they come out with another article about detoxing?? This one about “How Chefs Diet When They Need to Hit the Reset Button” with the subheading: “If you’re going to detox, might as well do it like a chef”. No no no. Would you please cut it out with all the detox bullshit Bon Appetit. I read you for recipes, not for terrible health and nutrition advice. If I wanted that, I would be reading Goop.

What’s my issue here? Well, one: detoxes are a misguided waste of effort (and often money). You are not going to remove toxins from your system by drinking green juice. Your body is equipped to regularly remove toxins from your body through a finely tuned system involving your kidneys and liver. Any toxins remaining in your body are not going to be removed through fasting, juice, laxatives, etc.

Two: why would a chef be uniquely qualified to provide advice on “detoxing”? What training do chefs have on human physiology? Perhaps this lack of knowledge is precisely why some of them are needlessly detoxing and willing to contribute to a ridiculous piece, rife with misinformation, on how chefs detox.

What these chefs are doing is not detoxing, it’s crash dieting. I can understand why the notion that we can put unhealthy foods in our bodies most of the time and then remedy that through a day or week of dietary penance would be appealing. Most people would probably like to eat whatever they wanted most of the time and forsake vegetables for bacon. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the human body works. You can’t just fill yourself with nutrient void foods most of the time, starve yourself, and expect that to balance everything out. Fortunately, nutritious foods can be delicious. You don’t have to choose between flavour and health. You can follow a balanced diet all of the time and skip the unnecessary detoxes.

Bon Appetit, I know that you’re a food magazine so perhaps you’re not aware that detoxing is bullshit and that you’re sharing terrible advice. The trouble is, you have a huge readership who look to you for foodspiration and by publishing drivel like this you’re potentially doing them harm. In the future, I request that you kindly detox yourselves from writing about detoxing.


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How a dietitian does a juice cleanse

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Image by 从峰 陈 on flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence

I really like the idea of Bon Appetit’s Healthyish column because, as I’ve mentioned before, a healthy diet isn’t about bland deprivation. However, a recent column made my blood boil.

I knew that nothing good would come from reading a column titled: How a Food Critic Does a Juice Cleanse but like a moth to a flame I just couldn’t help myself from clicking on the link when it appeared in my inbox. It was even worse than I imagined.

I can understand the difficulty that a food critic would have maintaining a balanced diet. Travelling can do a number on even the most conscientious eaters with the large portions at restaurants and the often insufficient quantities of vegetables, particularly in the States. It must be even more difficult for a food critic who has to sample many dishes and courses. That being said, the article should have ended mid-way through the first sentence: “Step 1: Don’t do it unless you have to” should have read: Don’t do it. Probably not enough words for SEO, but a much better message.

Initially I was pleasantly surprised to see the author, food critic Andrew Knowlton write: “Yes, I’m aware that pretty much every dietician says that juicing is not good for you.” Okay, good, he misspelled dietitian but at least he’s acknowledging that the profession devoted to nutrition and helping people make good food choices is opposed to juice cleanses. Sadly, it was all downhill from there.

It’s not that Knowlton chose to torture himself by consuming only juice for five days. Yes, I think that’s foolish, unhealthy, and unnecessary, but he’s an adult and can make his own decisions. It’s that he did this in front of his daughters. This honestly enraged me. Children learn from what they see others doing and their parents are usually their most powerful role models. Yes, Knowlton continued to cook bacon and actual food for his daughters but they saw him subsisting off juice. What message is that giving them? It’s teaching them that this is normal adult behaviour. That we can’t be healthy by consuming whole foods. That when we believe we’ve overindulged the solution is to starve ourselves. That diets, disordered eating, and self-inflicted punishment are synonymous with health and virtue. That is not a healthy message to be teaching children. Regardless of what Knowlton is telling his girls, actions speak louder than words. He may well be telling them to eat balanced meals and whole foods but if he’s doing that while sipping on a beet-ginger juice the juice is going to speak louder than the words.

If I may be so bold, I’d like to propose a rebuttal column: How a Dietitian Does a Juice Cleanse. Step 1: Don’t do it.


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Why you shouldn’t invite an RD to an Arbonne party

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Bat illustration by Ali Haines on flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence 

I recently attended an Arbonne party. In my defence, I was lured by the rare opportunity to socialize in this small city. I also had managed to confuse Arbonne with Avon. Expecting an evening of apps, chats, and maybe buying a token lipstick or something, I showed up with a batch of choco coco clusters and blissful ignorance of what was to come. I was greeted with an offer of wine (so far so good) and then we were “treated” to protein shake samples. I’m not a fan of protein shakes; the flavour and texture completely turn me off. The only way I’ve ever managed to find protein powder palatable is if it’s hidden in a smoothie. Fortunately, the samples were small but I got my first red flag when the seller (or whatever they’re called) told us that their protein powder formulation is ideal for women because we don’t absorb protein as well as men. Funny, I never learned that in my 4 year nutrition degree. Even more interesting is that their protein powder is a blend of pea protein, brown rice protein, and cranberry (??) protein, providing a modest 10 grams of protein per serving (compare that to the standard 20+ grams of protein for most whey (and even other commercially available vegan) protein powders. (Note: an Arbonne rep brought it to my attention that this product is actually their “protein boost” not protein powder which does contain 20 grams of protein per serving. My apologies for this error. That extra protein also comes with a cost; $85 for a bag containing 30 servings.)

We followed up our protein shots with a salt scrub on our hands which I really have no issue with.

Following this we sat around a table and were given a spiel about a number of the products available for purchase through Arbonne. Because I didn’t want to create an incredibly uncomfortable situation I (hope) I managed to plaster a neutral expression on my face while screaming “THIS IS BULLSHIT” inside my head. Oh man. There was a big deal made about how only a few (nine I think it was) substances are banned from cosmetics in North America while there’s a huge list in Europe and that’s the list that Arbonne uses. In case you were wondering, there are a lot more ingredients banned from use in Canadian cosmetics than nine. I can’t be bothered to count them all (that’s how many) but you can see them for yourself if you doubt me or are so inclined as to count them. I try to be conscientious about buying products without ingredients that are potential carcinogens and hormone disrupters, better safe than sorry. As such, I know that it’s possible to find affordable opens at many grocery stores. You do not have to spend $67 for lotion just to avoid parabens and pthalates and whatever. We were told that vaseline is bad but she couldn’t tell us why, instead we were told to “google it, educate yourself”. Well, I googled it and it seems to me that the consensus is that vaseline (aka petroleum jelly) is safe for use. The real debate is whether it does much more than to protect your skin by creating a barrier between it and the elements. She really got me when she told us that all the other mascaras contain bat poop. Yep, bat poop, in a product that you put right by your eye. I googled that one too because I was curious where that idea would come from considering that bat guano can cause illness. Apparently the myth came from the similarity between “guano” and “guanine”. Guanine is actually derived from fish scales (which may or may not be of comfort to you but seems much preferable to me). It kind of blew my mind that we would be told such blatant and easily disprovable facts. Does Arbonne feed their sellers these lies in the hopes that gullible shoppers buy into the fear? I also found it a little odd that for a company that prides itself on “clean” ingredients none of the skincare products seemed to have the ingredients on the containers.

Okay, next up the supplements. For a company that prides itself on “clean” ingredients I was pretty shocked by the crap they were selling us. An omega3 supplement that was derived from flax so was actually very low in omega3 but was presented as being equivalent to fish oil derived omega3 supplements. There were these energizing powders (to be used like Crystal Light) which were apparently much better than coffee. The first two ingredients were green coffee bean extract and green tea extract and then a bunch of other junk. You’d be better off sticking to coffee; cheaper, safer, and (probably) tastier. There was a detox supplement that contained a variety of laxatives and diuretics. Unnecessary and potentially harmful.

I couldn’t even bring myself to buy a product to be polite after hearing all the nonsense about what they were selling and seeing the obscene prices. As if all this isn’t enough reason to avoid Arbonne, they’re essentially a pyramid scheme.

If you believe in science and not wasting your money then I’d recommend learning from my experience and avoiding Arbonne “parties”.

 


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Detoxify yourself, for real

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Back to that sage magazine for blogspiration… There’s a two page ad for an “herbal cleanse” entitled: Why do we need to cleanse?

It follows a Q & A format. The first question:

Doesn’t my body cleanse itself?

It’s true that our bodies are meant to naturally cleanse themselves…

If only it could have stopped right there and been like, “and they do!” But, that wouldn’t make them any money. Instead, the ad goes on to say that we’re bombarded with so many “toxic chemicals” which can lead to a “toxic overload”. Clearly, our bodies need help removing those toxins from our bodies <insert eye roll here>.

The thing is, your body does cleanse itself. What do you think your kidneys and liver are up to all day? Of course, your body can’t rid itself of all toxins but a cleanse can’t improve upon what your body’s already doing for free.

The ad goes on to instil a little more fear into all of us…

Every second, 310 kilograms of toxic chemicals are released into our air, land and water by industrial factories worldwide. These wastes enter our body, where they undermine its ability to function effectively, leading to symptoms including: fatigue, headache, gas and bloating, body odour, constipation, skin irritation and rashes, and sleeplessness.

Conveniently, these are all conditions that are extremely common and most of us can probably identify with them. This is how they get people to think “I’m tired! It must be toxins! I’d better do a cleanse!” Never stopping to consider that the reason they’re so tired may be as simple as they don’t go to bed early enough or they get woken up during the night by a crying baby, snoring partner, or obnoxious lovely kitty. Far easier to splash out $16 (or whatever the cost is) on a bottle of herbal cleanse than to improve current habits.

How does this magical cleanse purport to work?

Using cleansing herbs helps counteract this accumulation of toxins and wastes… The following “great eight” herbs are excellent for cleansing: Blessed thistle, Burdock, Kelp, Sheep sorrel, Slippery elm, Turkish rhubarb, Red clover and Watercress

Ignoring the fact that these are not all technically herbs, this is still a load of bullshit. Unless you consider pooping to be cleansing, as many of these plants are known for their laxative properties. Others are known for their diuretic properties. I hate to break it to you, going to the bathroom more frequently doesn’t mean you’re expelling more toxins from your body than you otherwise would.

The really great thing about their product is that you don’t have to adjust your lifestyle at all to reap the benefits.

You’ll often hear people say that they’re doing a cleanse or a detox, and then complaining about the difficult meal plan or extreme food restrictions. Cleansing your body doesn’t have to be a chore or disrupt your daily life. It can be as simple as making it a part of a daily ritual of drinking tea.

That’s right, you don’t have to follow some ridiculous diet to “cleanse” or “detox”. You also don’t have to drink an expensive herbal laxative diuretic tea. Of course, you’ll be healthier and probably feel better if you do just make healthy choices like eating more vegetables, getting exercise, going outside, and getting more sleep.

Instead of buying into cleanses, detoxify your life by removing unnecessary products and ignoring false marketing tactics.